A Guide to Creating a Hummingbird Haven in Your Backyard
Over 160 native, North American plants depend exclusively on hummingbirds for pollination. In the United States, hummingbirds feed on flower nectar and many small insects. To attract hummingbirds, your garden should provide a healthy, steady diet of both.
Hummingbirds are typically attracted to red and yellow tubular flowers, although they frequently visit others. Hummingbird feeders can also be purchased and filled with a sugar-water solution, consisting of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. The following guide will cover attracting hummingbirds naturally and also tips for safely using purchased feeders.
Attracting Hummingbirds Naturally
The best thing you can do to attract hummingbirds to your yard is to add flowering plants to your landscape. When choosing plants, think about when they will bloom. You can attract hummingbirds throughout the seasons by planting annuals and perennials with different blooming periods.
The use of red dye is unnecessary and may be harmful to the hummingbirds.
Almost anything red and tubular is a favorite. Pink and orange are also well liked. As a rule, hummingbirds pick flowers with lots of nectar and little fragrance. Many of the red-flowered annuals, perennials, vines, and shrubs available from mail order sources or local garden centers have been developed from the native red-flowered plants of the western hemisphere.
Plants that Attract Hummingbirds
- Trumpet honeysuckle
- Fire pink
- Scarlet petunia
- Scarlet penstemon
- Red buckeye
- Scarlet morning glory
- Geiger tree
- Cypress vine
- Scarlet paintbrush
- Coral bells
- Scarlet salvia
To prepare sugar water for a feeder, mix one part sugar to four parts boiling water. Cool the mixture before pouring it into your hummingbird feeder. You can store the extra mix in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Adults need regular doses of protein from mosquitoes, spiders and gnats to round out their diet.
Never use honey or artificial sweetener. Both can cause a fungal infection in the birds. The use of red dye is unnecessary and may be harmful to the hummingbirds. Change the sugar water in the feeders frequently, even if no birds are visiting the site. The nectar can spoil quickly, sending a hummingbird away no matter how hungry it is. Replace the solution every five to seven days during the cooler fall months. Rinse the feeder thoroughly, without soap, before refilling it.
Attract Hummingbirds with Feeder Location
Spread your hummingbird foods, both flowers and feeders, throughout your entire garden to discourage dominance by any one bird. Hummingbird flowers, unlike flowers for butterflies, are attractive to these birds whether in the sun or shade. Hummingbird feeders should be hung in the shade.
Hummingbirds in the east usually return in late March (south) to mid-May (north). They usually leave in early September (north) to late November (south). In the Deep South, more and more hummingbirds are overwintering. Hang your feeders accordingly.
Avoid Pesticide Use when Feeding Hummingbirds
Pesticides can be lethal to hummingbirds. Most people think they feed exclusively on nectar, but this isn’t true. Hummingbirds feed their young almost entirely on small insects and only a little nectar. The adults need regular doses of protein from mosquitoes, spiders and gnats to round out their diet. Even if they do not take in enough nectar dosed with Malathion, Sevin or Diazinon to kill them directly, the number of small insects available to them in your garden will drop precipitously. This may cause starvation or death of young hummingbirds.
Just Add Water for Hummingbirds
A constant source of water will complete your hummingbird haven. If you have a birdbath, place a couple of flat rocks in it to give the tiny birds an opportunity to bathe. Any form of running water will be be a magnet to hummingbirds. They may even fly through the spray of a sprinkler.
Once hummingbirds discover your garden, they will remember it from year to year, so be sure to welcome them back using these tips annually.
Certify Your Backyard as a Wildlife Sanctuary
After you have followed Sage’s How-to Attract Hummingbirds Guide and our other How to Attract Wildlife Guides to providing habitat to attract hummingbirds and other wildlife to your backyard, you can certify your backyard as a wildlife sanctuary. As long as you are providing the four basics for habitat specified in the Sage How-to Attract Wildlife Guides, including food, water, shelter and a place to live, you qualify.
Along with a personalized certificate, you will receive a Backyard Wildlife Habitat sign to post in your yard. This sign is a great way to show your neighbors and community that you’re working to attract hummingbirds and other wildlife and provide a natural habitat for the animals that visit and live in your yard. Your backyard will also be entered in the National Registry of Backyard Wildlife Habitat Sites.
For an application to certify your backyard as a wildlife sanctuary, please visit the National Wildlife Federation’s Application for Certification.